Thursday, July 13, 2017


A Snail's Life

Erasmus, Adagia IV iv 57, in Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 36: Adages IV iii 1 to V ii 51, tr. John N. Grant and Betty I. Knott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), p. 101:
57 Cochleae vita
A snail's life

Κοχλίου βίος, A snail's life. Said of those who live frugally and on little, or have withdrawn from business and are aloof from the activities of commercial daily life. The creature from whom the metaphor has been taken is well known. Plutarch in his essay 'On Love of Wealth': 'You are beset by many troubles, you torture and upset yourself when you live a snail's life because of your stinginess.'1 We have quoted elsewhere from the Two Captives of Plautus about how snails 'live on their own juice ... when it is hot weather.'2

1 Plutarch Moralia 525D-E De cupiditate divitiarum

2 Plautus Captivi 78-83, quoted in Adagia II viii 80 They live on their own juice. Erasmus' version of the title of Plautus' play is common in early editions.
The Latin:
Κοχλίου βίος, id est Cochleae vita. De iis qui parce parvoque vivunt aut contracti a negociis luceque forensi semoti. Notum est animal unde sumpta est metaphora. Plutarchus in libello Περὶ τῆς φιλοπλουτίας: Σὺ δὲ τοσαῦτα πράγματα συνέχεις καὶ ταράττεις καὶ στροβεῖς σεαυτόν, κοχλίου βίον ζῶν διὰ τὴν μικρολογίαν, id est Tu vero tantum molestiarum sustines turbans et torquens teipsum, cum ob parsimoniam cochleae vitam vivas. De cochleis quae, cum caletur, succo victitant suo, alias retulimus ex Plautina Captivi duo.

Erasmus, "Domestica Confabulatio," in Opera Omnia I.3: Colloquia, edd. L.-E. Halkin et al. (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Company, 1972), pp. 138-140 (at 139):
PETRVS. Sed tu mihi videre cochleae vitam agere.
IODOCVS. Qui sic?
PETRVS. Quia perpetuo domi lates, nec vsquam prorepis. Non secus atque claudus sutor, iugiter domi desides. Tu tibi domi situm contrahis.
Tr. Craig R. Thompson:
Peter But you seem to me to live a snail's life.
Jodocus How so?
Peter Because you always hide at home and never come out. You're no different from a crippled cobbler, forever sitting at home. You'll grow musty sitting at home.
"Come out" is a bit colorless for the Latin prorepis ("creep forth").

Erasmus, letter 282 (to Andrew Ammonius; November 28, 1513), in Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterdami, ed. P.S. Allen, Tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1882), pp. 541-542 (at 542):
Nos, mi Ammoni, iam menses aliquot plane cochleae vitam viuimus; domi contracti conditique mussamus in studiis.
Tr. Francis Morgan Nichols:
We have been living, my dear Ammonius, for some months a snail's life. We shrink and hide ourselves indoors, and are busy as bees in study.

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